CO 70.1 [Fall 1992], pp. 29-32: ACL committee report; Survey of Computer Users and Non-users; SoftPC on Macintosh; Seven Activities for CLC Unit I, Roman Banquet; Updates on Transparent Language, Dasher, de Italia, Perseus; Crossword Creator
The ACL's Committee on Educational Computer Applications (CECA) was set
up in 1987. Since that makes this year its fifth anniversary, I think it's
appropriate to briefly review the work of the committee to-date.
When the committee was chartered, it had six objectives prescribed for itself: 1) To maintain the Survey of Latin Instructional Software for the Microcomputer (soon to include Greek), published by the ACL's Teaching Materials and Resource Center (TMRC); 2) To create an evaluation form for instructional software in the Classics; 3) To articulate a prioritized list of recommended topics and/or formats for software development; 4) To establish a network of interested software designers, developers, and publishers to expedite the fulfillment of the needs expressed in #3 above; 5) To disseminate relevant information about educational computer applications in our field (originally by way of a newsletter and now by way of this column); 6) To advise the TMRC on additions to its catalog listings of educational software.
At this point in time I am happy to report that the committee has had substantial success with most of its objectives, except for #4. The Survey has been updated every two years, and a detailed evaluation form (TOO detailed according to some) has been drafted and distributed with all software orders sent out by the TMRC. This column continues to regularly publish up-to-date information about new developments and discoveries. However, when the committee attempted to contact all the publishers who are currently involved in our field, there was almost no response. The number of teachers interested in designing software is encouraging but relatively small. It appears that the attitude of software publishers is to wait for teachers and/or programmers to come to them with a finished product, rather than to invest money up front for the long-term design and development of programs that are designed to meet specific needs.
In an attempt to conduct more outreach and education for our "cause," the committee has also been accepting invitations to give computer workshops at various state, regional, and national conferences for Classics teachers, similar to those given at the annual ACL Institute. This fall there is such a session planned at the annual ACTFL convention in Chicago (alas, without a computer lab).
Another recent endeavor of the committee has been to survey Classics
teachers on the extent of their current use of computers for educational
purposes. A "Survey of Computer Users and Non-users" was included
with the ACL's mailing of the TMRC catalog in March 1991. Almost 200 people
returned completed surveys (out of approximately 7500 mailed), which the
committee found gratifying since there was no special incentive to do so.
The results may be the most up-to-date and useful gauge in our field for:
1) how accessible computers are to both teachers and students, 2) what types
of computers are available to them, and 3) what types of software are deemed
useful and needed by teachers.
Many of the numbers speak for themselves. If you thought you were one
of the few people not using computers for teaching, you might be reassured
to find you are not in a minority (#1-3). A substantial majority have NEVER
done so. In most cases, however, it cannot be denied that the machinery
is available for students to use (#5). It often just depends on finding
the appropriate software to provide them, and most teachers are nowhere
near satisfied with the variety of software now on the market (#8). They
even seem willing to put some time into adapting a program to their own
needs when they find something worth using (#6-7).
Strangely enough, the desired priorities for future software development seem to mirror what is currently available, both by topic and type. The rate of spending on software remains fairly conservative (#12-13), reflecting a general dissatisfaction with the variety of choices available.
The breakdown of computer types available in school and at home (#10-11) demonstrates the national split between three major operating systems for educational programs. Apple IIs got such a strong foothold in the schools early in the game (1980-85), and their relative cheapness kept them popular there. Families in which parents have often learned how to use IBM-compatible computers at work have tended to buy the same thing for home use. This, I think, best explains the reverse imbalance between those two systems. While Macintoshes (also made by Apple) are generally more user-friendly and for the most part more expensive than either Apple IIs or IBM-compatibles, they continue to hold onto a smaller, yet very substantial, piece of the pie.
Apple is trying hard to make it easy for schools to cross over the Apple
II-Macintosh bridge. The Mac LC epitomizes their effort. Since I announced
its arrival here not long ago (see CO 68 [Spring 1991]: 101-2), it seems
to have proven itself well in the academic arena. The Apple IIe card for
the LC, which allows users to run virtually all the old Apple II software,
has by all accounts lived up to its claims. Apple has even gone so far as
to lower the price and improve the package at the same time.
If you have a profound desire to "cover all the bases," I can verify the fact that it is now possible to do it on this same Macintosh LC. With the help of a program called SoftPC you can run IBM-compatible (or "PC") programs on the very same computer that runs Macintosh and Apple II software. The "PC" programs will run a little slower than they do on an actual IBM-compatible computer; but, otherwise, this is the closest thing I've seen to complete intercompatibility between the three major "platforms" for educational computing. For more information on SoftPC, contact Insignia Solutions, Inc., 526 Clyde Ave., Mountain View, CA 94043; tel. 800-848-7677.
British schools have for a long time had a nice set of small, but graphically
stimulating, computer programs to accompany the Cambridge Latin Course.
Unfortunately, they were designed to run on BBC computers, a uniquely British
creation that became ubiquitous in their school system early on in the computer
game. (I am led to believe it is something akin to a Commodore 64.) After
years of trying to figure out a way to convert the programs into a format
useful to schools outside the British Isles, the North American Cambridge
Classics Project was finally able to get David Curran to rewrite the programs
for Apple II computers.
The programs do provide a nice blend of text, graphics, and sound, following the CLC methodology very closely and keeping the drilled grammar and vocabulary tightly correlated to the stage by stage development of the textbook. Though some of the graphics programs follow the same sequence every time they are run, the diversity of approaches provided by the seven distinct programs is refreshing, and the price is hard to beat (US $29.95, Canada $31.25).
Here is a brief list of the programs and their topics: "Help Melissa" practices nominative and accusative discrimination; "Mus in Villa" teaches room names in the house; "Who's Who" tests the use of appellations and degrees of comparison; "Jumbled Stories" quizzes the user on narrative sequences; "Dative" and "Perfect & Imperfect" are self-explanatory; "Thermae" deals with room names at the baths; and "Fuga" challenges your decision-making skills as Mt. Vesuvius is erupting. For more information, contact the NACCP Resource Center, P.O. Box 932, Amherst, MA 01004. (A Macintosh version may also be available soon.)
Another recent software addition to the catalog of the NACCP Resource Center is called Roman Banquet. This program is part of the "Dieting Dinosaur" series published by Curriculum Applications, and it offers a new variation on the old "Hangman" game. Each letter must pass the dietary standards of Ludwig the Dinosaur before it can be accepted into the target word(s). The data disk includes the vocabulary from stages 1-12 of the Cambridge Latin Course. The graphics and sound elements, along with the simplicity of the game, are generally geared toward the middle school student.
Just a year and a half ago we saw the introduction of the new Transparent
Language program for IBM-compatibles (see CO 69 [Fall 1991]:26). The program
puts literary selections from several languages, including Latin, on screen
to read and then provides learning support by means of word, phrase, and
sentence translations, along with some useful notes. Now Transparent Language
is already releasing a Macintosh version--at a slightly higher cost than
the IBM version ($125).
Another new "conversion" for Macintosh folks is from Conduit. Dasher is an authoring program for foreign language instruction which was originally written for Apple IIs (see CO 69 [Fall 1991]:27). Not long ago Conduit published an IBM version of the program and now they are releasing a Macintosh version, too. Plans are in the works for the creation of Latin modules (providing macrons) for these newer versions of Dasher, similar to the one for Apple IIs.
More good news comes from the University of Wisconsin Videodisc Project (see CO 69 [Fall 1991]:28-9), where the latest shipment of de Italia videodiscs was received from Italy at half the usual cost! The UW Classics Department is happy to pass the savings on to those purchasing the software package from them, so the price has been dropped to $145.
Also residing in that exotic realm of classical videodiscs is the incomparable Perseus software (see CO 69 [Fall 1991]:26-7). Under development since 1987 at Harvard University with major funding from the Annenberg/CPB Project, Perseus 1.0 is now publicly available from Yale University Press. The full package, including videodisc, CD-ROM disk, and user manual, is priced at $350; a CD-ROM only package with user manual can be purchased for $150; a demonstration video is available for $10; and on-approval orders with a 30-day review are accepted from qualified institutions. (A more detailed review of this publication will appear in an upcoming column.)
"Clearinghouse" Editor Ken Kitchell has passed on to me an
IBM-compatible shareware program called Crossword Creator which he has enjoyed
experimenting with recently. The program accepts the input of word lists
and prompts the user for matching clues. If you have a crossword design
in mind, you can put it together yourself, but the real thrill (and value)
of the program comes when you let it create the crossword for you. The author
of the program tells me that he has just released a new, slicker version
(price: $55); contact Brad Cannell at the PC Help-Line, 35250 Silver Leaf
Circle, Yucaipa, CA 92399; tel. 714-797-3091.
Many Latin teachers have also had fun with a similar program called Crossword Magic, which I believe runs on the Apple II. If someone would like to send me the publisher's contact information on that program, I would be happy to pass it on to everyone else. That also goes for any other programs which you have had success with and which have not been covered in this column or the Survey of Latin Instructional Software published by the ACL's Teaching Materials and Resource Center (Catalog item #B-319). Help me spread the word!